When I read about a stem cell penis growth injection, what comes to mind first when you read that is “Ow!”
The goal of today’s post is to fact-check this whole area.
What’s in this article
Quick Article Summary and Claim Review. Stem cells have generated a lot of buzz, only some of it legitimate. Some physicians and companies are claiming that stem cell injections can enlarge the penis or improve people’s sex lives. My research suggests there is little if any clinical trial data to support this claim. Stem cell injections into the penis are likely to pose many risks including infection or irregular lumps on the penis or even possibly erectile dysfunction. Overall, this is an expensive, risky approach to men’s sexual health with little possibility of yielding good outcomes. Consult your doctor. These approaches should be distinguished from legitimate clinical research on growing new penis tissue using stem cells for those injured in accidents or battle.
When a guy willingly has anything injected down there, maybe you’d think that there would be a compelling medical reason such as erectile dysfunction to do so as it seems risky or painful?
But the news that the publicly-traded stem cell clinic biz US Stem Cell, Inc. ($USRM) injected some guy’s penis with fat stem cells to attempt to make it bigger when the guy had no reported medical issues down there to begin with, appears to reflect a very different scenario.
Published data re not convincing that this is safe and effective.
This is a very risky thing for a clinic and man to do.
Let’s examine the claims and the science here.
Stem cell penis growth
Why do these injections?
One goal seems to be sexual enhancement for the guy, but is another objective here more focused on enhancement of the company?
US Stem Cell announced this stem cell penis injection via a press release in January and more recently writer Kristen V. Brown over at Gizmodo had a new article on it this past week. I’ve covered the marketing of stem cells for sexual enhancement over the years including here.
The title of the Gizmodo piece, “This Guy Injected His Dick With Stem Cells to Try to Make It Bigger”, suggests that the guy in question, fitness author and biohacker Ben Greenfield, injected the stem cells into his own penis, but that apparently is not the case as someone at US Stem Cell or an affiliate seems to have done the experimental procedure. I also wish Brown’s article had talked more about risks, but it did provide some new insights into the situation and was generally pretty balanced.
So, even if this was not DIY, why do it, especially if not to try to treat erectile dysfunction?
Greenfield was blunt in talking to Gizmodo:
“I wanted to go from good to great, and to get a bigger dick,” he told Gizmodo. “I’m not going to lie, that’s why guys without erectile dysfunction would do this.”
Greenfield has also been in some videos on YouTube discussing (and showing) stem cell injections and other DIY biohacking of various kinds. See screenshot from one above. He appears to embrace risk taking and is open to novel approaches to try to transform health. This penis stem cell thing seems like one of the more unusual cases of biohacking lately, a broader trend which has included DIY CRISPR injection, which I predicted back in late 2015.
Risks of stem cell penis growth attempts
In my view, there are some real issues here in this case including the risk of causing erectile dysfunction.
Just squirting a bunch of fat stem cells inside the penis seems like a brute force way to go for penis enlargement. Imagine lumps, bumps, unevenness. I’ve been trying to think of a good analogy. Maybe you want a bigger car so you just use a hose and pump to fill the spaces inside your car doors and trunk with epoxy to make it bulge out all over? Yikes.
Also, I wonder on another level: is this stem cell injection turning into a big PR thing for US Stem Cell? Did the company give him anything of value (even a free treatment?) for undergoing this procedure and/or publicly talking about it? Maybe not, but it’d be helpful to know. I messaged Greenfield on Twitter to ask him about this and if I get an answer I’ll do an update here.
US Stem Cell Clinic claims of penile enlargement and much more
Furthermore, in my opinion this stem cell injection by USRM for attempted enhancement is probably not FDA compliant. The use of fat stem cells may not be considered homologous use plus more importantly the FDA has indicated that fat stem cells in the form of stromal vascular fraction are generally a drug.
In fact, FDA already warned USRM/US Stem Cell Clinic last year for a variety of issues and that warning letter may have been sparked at least in part by several people losing their vision after getting an experimental injection of fat stem cells into their eyes. Does FDA care about the same company now doing penis injections with fat stem cells?
While fat stem cell injections into a penis won’t make you go blind (OK, I never thought I’d blog such a sentence), it could potentially cause serious problems even beyond the risk of infection. The most concerning risks may include damage to the nerves or blood vessels of the penis, but potential scar tissue formation from the fat stems may be more likely. “Fat stem cells” are usually a mixture of cell types including fibroblasts, a cell type that in certain conditions can generate scar tissue.
Does it work?
I suppose injection of fat stem cells and/or actual fat tissue into the penis could temporarily lead to a size increase. However, I’d predict that this would tend to be transient as the fat/associated cells are not supposed to be there and your body would likely remove or resorb them. In terms of just size, I’m surprised the company did not release measurements to document the claim of enhancement.
Even if it stays bigger, it might not be quite what customers imagine. A cosmetic risk would be (for lack of a better descriptor) “uneven lumpiness” as the fat/fat stem cells may not be evenly distributed or could grow in a not entirely even way.
Greenfield told Gizmodo, “Injecting his penis with stem cells, he continued, is just one way to combat the perils of modern life.”
I’d flip that around and say that injecting stem cells into a guy’s penis is itself a unique peril of modern life in the stem cell clinic world.
Does size matter?
An increasing number of men around the world are paying a lot of money for stem cell “enhancement” procedures. Such a procedure could put their health in danger as they strive to be bigger in that area. Men are also more often writing in to this blog asking about this topic, weighing risks to potential benefits.
For example, this message I received from a guy that I’ll call Ted, who said I could post it if I changed his name, tells the story pretty clearly:
“This is embarrassing. I’m having increasing issues with my wife about sex. She’s not a bad person, but she wishes I had a bigger package and could last longer. Can a guy get a bigger penis using stem cells? I’ve seen some ads on the web about this, but it is thousands of dollars and I don’t like the idea of someone injecting me there. Sorry for asking. I feel like an idiot.”
Checking the data on stem cell penis growth
Apparently, at least argued in one recent report, for some women penis size does matter. Another study reported data on the average penis size amongst something like 15,000 men who were measured and the authors suggested guidelines for size related to people who might be candidates for augmentation. See graphs below from the paper indicating correlations between different methods of measurement.
For those men who might feel like their size is not where they’d like on those graphs in the paper, one might ask: Can a man get a bigger penis via stem cells?
From Beverly Hills to Bangkok for-profit clinics say an emphatic, “yes!”
Bigger penis. Bigger erection. Better sex life. All through stem cells. And stem cell sex-related “treatments” for women too. If you have the cash to pay us.
Would this kind of stuff really work?
If you’ve got the necessary bank account to pay for it and can overcome the scary idea of injections or other procedures on your genitals, you could try it, but there are very serious potential risks and little published data to support doing something rather extreme like this. It would well make things worse instead of better. Such risks could include complete loss of sexual function, nerve damage, infection, and more.
From a broader perspective, stem cells are being sold to allegedly grow or improve all kinds of body parts including not only penises, but also breasts whether surgically or via that odd electric stem cell bra. Stem cells are also being sold to “rejuvenate” vaginas in women. What the heck?
It is important to distinguish these kinds of cosmetic procedures from breast or other tissue reconstruction after cancer surgery and also efforts to regrow penises damaged, for example, by battlefield injuries to male soldiers.
As I said, I’ve gotten a significant number of emails and comments on the blog from men like Ted who are seriously contemplating getting a “stem cell” enhancement and from women looking to deal with sexual dysfunction. It’s no April Fools Day joke to them. Some of the men want to be bigger and some have erectile dysfunction.
Who is selling this stuff?
There are many places, but I’m going to give two examples that are certainly not endorsements or specific criticisms. To be clear again, I discourage people generally from going this route because of serious safety concerns with such procedures.
The Stem Cell Rejuvenation Center makes a claim of selling better sex for $1,500 and up a pop via stem cells by procedures they call O-Shot for Women and Male-Shot. How stem cells could achieve their claims (listed below in red) is not clear to me and any kind of procedure is going to have risks:
- “For women, the O-Shot™ offers:
- Improve your marriage
- Improve your sex life
- Improve your relationship
- Improve climax/orgasm
- Better sex after menopause
- Better sex after childbirth
- Finally, something for women!! This is very exciting!!
- For Men, The Male-Shot offers:
- Bigger erections
- Improve your sex life
- Improve climax/orgasm
- Increased sensitivity
- Increased libido”
I didn’t see any data on this to support these claims.
Another place called the Barron Centers in Beverly Hills offers stem cell-based phalloplasty.
On the Barron website they describe in great detail how the attempts to use fat or stem cells to get bigger penises has evolved over the years to get to today’s technology (emphasis mine):
“Fat is removed and placed in the penis the same as before, but it is processed in a way that separates stem cells from the rest of the fat, which are then injected into the fat in a very high concentration. A new blood supply is established rapidly which allows for a much better result. There is a small amount of reabsorption, but nothing compared to what we used to experience. There will be an increase in circumference of 30-40% either way.”
See the cartoon image from their website that shows a schematic of a cross-section of the claimed bigger penis.
The doctor behind the Barron Centers is Dr. Rodney Barron. The idea seems to be to use fat tissue to increase size and stem cells to “grow” more tissue as well as stimulate increased vasculature.
It is important to note that the laboratory process of the material that they describe seems to me to be production of a specific stem cell-enhanced adipose product called SVF or stromal vascular fraction (more on that here). This is notable because the FDA to date has generally written about SVF as a drug requiring pre-approval and licensing.
The bottom line claim review: dangerous & unproven
The bottom line overall when it comes to stem cells for penile enlargement or even for a better sex life more generally is that it seems like an extreme way to go without clear data supporting efficacy and safety.
There are likely to be some serious medical risks involved. One obvious risk is erectile dysfunction.
Note: This blog post is not medical advice and I’ll say again that I discourage people from getting these kinds of treatments due to the risks and many unknowns.